Tooth repair: how to fix a chipped, cracked or broken tooth

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Gemma Wheeler

(GDC Number: 83940)

Tooth repair: how to fix a chipped, cracked or broken tooth

We have all heard about, if not seen the stories where people have chipped or broken their teeth.

Many of these are as a result of unfortunate accidents; but failure to take adequate precautions in certain circumstances can result in chipped, broken or cracked teeth.

You may have chips in your teeth or maybe you know someone who has, it is a lot more common than you might think.

For some this may be painless and nothing other than a cosmetic issue.  For others the result of cracked a tooth can be much more painful and require more immediate medical attention.

In this article I explain what the differences are between chipped, cracked and broken teeth.  I then explain how these are treated by dental professionals as well as providing some useful associated information such as the cost of treatment.

The anatomy of a tooth

To best understand the consequences of damaged teeth, it is worth looking at what makes up the teeth.

Don’t worry, it’s not all that complicated and I won’t get too medical.

Essentially the tooth is made up of 3 layers, enamel, dentine and pulp.

The top external layer is called enamel.  This is the hardest substance in the human body, stronger than the bones that make up your skeleton.

White in colour, the enamel is the visible layer of protection around the tooth.  Most noticeable is the upper part of the tooth, called the crown. This is the top of the tooth that sits above the gumline and the part you and I see when we smile or open our mouths.

The bottom half of a tooth is made up of roots, these sit within the gum and jawbone.  They are are not covered by enamel, but are covered by cementum.  Cementum is similar to enamel, but a little softer.

It is the enamel surface layer that is exposed to all that we put in our mouths and the part of the tooth we brush and floss clean.

Below this is a softer tissue called dentine which forms the bulk of the tooth structure.

Inside this, at the core of the tooth is the pulp, which contains the blood vessels and nerves.

The dentine and pulp run all the way through the tooth to the roots that secure the tooth into the jaw.

When a tooth becomes chipped, fractured, cracked or broken, it affects primarily the outer layer of enamel.

However, in certain conditions the damage will involve the delicate dentine and pulp from the moment the tooth becomes cracked or broken.  An example might be if the face and teeth take a blow or some sort of trauma as part of an accident. At other times, these inner layers will not be affected.  But, should a crack or damage not be noticed or is left untreated, the pulp may become irritated or infected.

Symptoms

The enamel on the surface of our teeth can withstand a lot of wear and tear.  But as we live longer, expose our teeth to stresses like clenching and grinding as well as chewing on hard objects, the enamel can crack or break.

When this happens it may well be immediately noticeable.  You may hear it, feel it or even see it happen. At other times, you may not even realise.

Damage to the tooth can be very small and hard to spot.  In fact even x-rays and dental professional can struggle to find them.

Although you might not know for sure the tooth is actually damaged, you get symptoms that you have not previously experience that would lead you to believe something is wrong.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Pain when biting or chewing
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods
  • No symptoms at all
  • The tongue or cheek becomes irritated by a rough or sharp edge

As odd as it might seem, a tooth can become damaged and have a crack in it, but it is quite common to have no symptoms at all.

Whilst many do feel the tooth crack or break, the enamel does not have nerves in it like many other parts of the human body, so you will not always know that damage has occured, because the pain receptors are not present to alert you.

At some point, symptoms will likely show, but it can be some time after the initial damage was done.

Chewing is often what highlights the problem most as you may experience waves of pain as the pressure of the jaws coming together exert force on the damaged tooth.

Photo of broken teeth

Left untreated, the pulp inside the tooth can become injured as a consequence of the pressure and exposure to saliva and bacteria that it would not normally come into contact with.

Where the damage to your tooth is more obvious, you need to seek the opinion of a dentist to resolve the issues and prevent unwanted additional damage.

The pain may be unbearable, therefore rinsing the mouth with warm water and using a cold compress on the outside of your cheek can prevent swelling and hopefully provide some comfort.

Over the counter painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen can reduce swelling and stop it from hurting too much.

If the tooth is broken, with a sharp or jagged edge, you can place a piece of sugar free gum over it to protect your tongue, cheeks and inside lips.

Photo of cracked tooth

Types of tooth damage

Despite enamel being the hardest substance in the human body it is not completely immune to being damaged.

You or others may use similar or different words to describe the damage done to a tooth, but, the damage is generally categorised in one of 3 main categories.

  • Chips

    • Chips to the teeth, or teeth that have been chipped are typically the least significant from a medical perspective.
    • Smallish pieces of tooth that actually break away.
    • Little or no pain often.
    • More damage to the way the tooth looks rather than affecting the function.
    • Normally, just a small amount of enamel has been lost and the dentine or pulp are not exposed.
  • Cracks

    • Cracked or fractured teeth are more serious and can hurt more.
    • Often the crack runs through the enamel and into the deeper layers of dentine or pulp.
    • Teeth can crack in different ways and are further classified by the location and size of the crack
      • Craze lines
      • Fractured/cracked cusps
      • Cracked
      • Split
      • Vertical root fracture
  • Breaks

    • Often the most serious tooth damage, most often as a result of serious impact trauma.
    • Larger pieces of the tooth physically broken.
    • Exposure of the softer inner tissues of the pulp.
    • More severe pain, bleeding and discomfort.

All damage to the teeth requires the attention of a dentist.  This is not only to resolve the problem present, but at least check that the damage is no more serious than it may seem.

Broken teeth may require attention the same day, whilst those with chipped teeth can normally wait 24-48 hours.

With the exception of more extreme scenarios, a damaged tooth, be it chipped, or physically cracked can normally be repaired.

Be aware, teeth do not heal or repair themselves like bones or the skin does.  This means that damaged teeth require medical intervention to save or restore them.

Causes of tooth damage?

Teeth break as a result of a number of different causes.

There is a long list of possible causes of tooth damage, but common reasons are:

  • Decay (dental caries).
  • Chewing hard substances like boiled sweets, nuts or ice.
  • Biting down unexpectedly on something hard, such as a pip or stone within fruits.
  • Accidents where the face and teeth take the brunt of the impact from an object, be that falling over and hitting into something or something hitting you.
  • Old fillings failing.
  • Teeth grinding.
  • Using teeth to open things, such as beer bottles.

Whilst a perfectly healthy set of teeth can become damaged by biting down hard on something like a boiled sweet, all to often the root cause is actually decay.

Decay is a result of improper oral hygiene.  The bacteria in the mouth produce acids which eat away at the enamel.  The tooth becomes weaker than they are naturally.

The forces applied to the teeth as we eat or chew harder substances like sweets finally cause them to give way.

Loose or weak fillings, teeth grinding and freak accidents can also be the cause of damage to the teeth.

Diagnosing tooth damage

Some chips, cracks or breaks to the teeth are clear, there is no question about the damage.

However, not all damage is immediately noticeable because the damage is very small or not visible without magnification or is below the gumline, an area of mouth only visible with an x-ray.

Irrespective of how severe the damage is or not, the first stage to getting treatment is an assessment.

I think I have a chipped or broken tooth – should I see a dentist?

If you think you have a chipped or broken tooth you should definitely see your dentist. If you are not in any pain you can wait until an appointment comes free. You may not even need any treatment, but it is better to get it checked out in case there is any decay.

Dr Gemma WheelerIn-house dentist – GDC Number: 259369

The dentist needs to see what they are dealing with and assess  whether the damage is purely cosmetic or whether it is more serious.

To help with the diagnosis and resulting treatment you can expect the following.

  • Questions about your dental history, from your last check up date to whether you grind your teeth or not.
  • Questions about your diet.
  • Have you bite down to assess pain when applying pressure.
  • A visual examination of the mouth and affected tooth.
  • Magnifying tools along with a ‘dental explorer’ may well be used to find any cracks and see it the explorer catches on the edge of a crack.
  • A dental dye may be used to help highlight cracks.
  • Probing of the gums
  • X-ray of the teeth

X-rays are a very useful tool to give another view of the teeth.  They do not always reveal the crack. Sometimes other signs of a crack may show up such as the health of the pulp or possible bone loss.

Do be aware the approaches taken for diagnosis will differ depending on whether the symptoms and whether the cracks or tooth damage is immediately noticeable.

If there is no damage to the roots or internal layers of the tooth your dentist can begin to identify which cosmetic technique is the most appropriate for your case.

Whilst for those cases where the damage is more severe options will be presented for saving and restoring the tooth.

Repairing a chipped tooth is easier than you might think

Repairing a chipped tooth can be easy and painless if the chip is within enamel.
It is well worth visiting your dentist to find out your options.

Dr Chhaya ChauhanIn-house dentist – GDC Number: 83940

Treatments for tooth damage

The suggestions for treatment, and best course of treatment, will all depend on the cause and extent of the damage.

The following are the 6 main approaches taken by dentists to repair teeth and restore a smile.

  • Cosmetic contouring
    • For the smallest of chips, the rough or sharp edge is removed through a rounding and polishing procedure that blends the crack or chip into the natural look of the tooth.
  • Dental filling or bonding
    • Specially designed dental materials are positioned and glued into a chip or crack. Then shaped by the dentist, the agents are hardened and the finish perfected to give the restoration a natural looking finish.
Broken tooth repair before and after
  • Veneers
    • Normally crafted specifically for each patient they essentially mask the damage and are suited to chipped or cracked teeth where the remaining structure and health of the tooth remains strong. Learn a lot more by reading our article dedicated to veneers.
  • Dental crown (full or partial)
    • Where the damage to the tooth is more severe, either a partial or full artificial tooth crown is precision crafted and then bonded to the tooth to give extra strength and retain as much as possible of the natural tooth as possible.  Often necessary to ensure the success of root canal treatment.  Find out more in our article on dental crowns.
  • Root canal treatment
    • For the more severe damage, where the internal structure (pulp) of the tooth has been damaged, the natural tooth root can be saved by this cleaning and filling process. Retaining the natural tooth root, the natural enamel tooth crown is generally weakened, requiring an artificial crown to be fitted. We’ve written more about root canal treatment here.
  • Extraction
    • For the most severely damaged teeth that cannot be saved by any of the other listed treatments, extraction is a last resort option.  It will lead to a gap that will for the sake of your smile and confidence need some form of artificial tooth to be fitted, be that a denture, bridge or implant. Learn a lot more by reading our article on tooth extraction.

Teeth do not heal like bone does, making the recovery job of the dentist more difficult.

With prompt treatment by a professional, any of these procedures can help save the tooth and retain it in good shape for years to come.

All efforts will be made to ensure long term success , but no treatment is a complete guarantee and complications may arise years later.

Chipped teeth

Perhaps the most common of the types of tooth breakages, chips in the tooth can be quite small and barely noticeable, through to much larger and obvious missing pieces, that may well make you conscious about your smile.

Whilst chips can exist in any tooth, it is the front teeth where chips are most noticeable as these are the ones you see and assess most of the time.

Chips will normally just damage the outer layer of the tooth, the enamel.  More often than not there is no pain associated with a chip in the tooth.

However, it is possible the chip is larger and reaches and even exposes the softer tissues inside which would hurt a lot more.

Some of the reasons you may consider getting a chip repaired are:

  • If it is causing you pain.
  • It is affecting your confidence to smile and you do not like the way it looks.
  • You have been left with a sharp edge on the tooth that is uncomfortable and possibly cutting other tissues in the mouth.

You do not have to get a chip repaired if it is not causing you any pain, but getting it checked out is always worth doing.

Photo of broken tooth repair before and after

Repairing chipped teeth

In most cases chipped teeth cause little in the way of lasting damage to the tooth, so they are simple to fix, no complex surgery is needed and the treatment is normally cost effective.

With the smallest chips where there is no pain or threat to the rest of the tooth, it is possible to have any sharp edges cleaned up by the dentist, using polishing tools or as it is more technically known, cosmetic contouring.

The look of the smile may well be affected very slightly, but it might be too small to notice or you might not be that bothered about the way it looks.

Where the chip is larger, it is naturally more noticeable and most will want to get the chip repaired for cosmetic reasons more than anything.

Photo of chipped tooth before

You may well know exactly when and how the chip happened and if you are lucky, you may even have the part of the tooth that came away.

Dental bonding or filling is the most usual course of action for a chipped tooth.

Bonding the tooth allows the dentist to essentially rebuild the tooth. A tooth coloured composite material is used to achieve this.

Photo of chipped tooth after

Having cleaned the tooth, then completed an acid etching process that roughens the tooth surface at a microscopic level, a medical grade adhesive is applied.  The composite bonding material is then added to the tooth and moulded to the perfect shape to restore the natural look of the tooth.

A special light then cures the bonding agent and the adhesive to ensure it sticks in place.

For larger chips, where bonding is not suitable a veneer is an option.

Cracked Teeth

A little more serious than a chipped tooth, a cracked tooth will typically require more attention from a dentist, depending on the severity of the cracking.

Whilst you and I might use the term cracked teeth, dental professionals will label or classify the cracks differently based on how long and where the cracks exist.

They are most commonly classified as follows:

  • Craze lines

Affecting only the outer enamel of the tooth, they look like a hairline fracture of the tooth surface. These are very common in adults.

Posing little threat, they can actually be left untreated a lot of the time.  There is no pain and they do not affect the tooth aside from the slight imperfection in the look of the teeth.

In some cases, the dentist will often run their polishing tools over the crack to rid the surface of any rough areas.

Craze lines will be monitored as part of routine treatment  to make sure they are not harbouring decay or getting worse.

  • Fractured/cracked cusps

The cusp is the pointed part of the biting surface of the tooth.

Fractured cusps often occur in teeth that already have a filling.

The crack begins in the upper chewing area of the tooth, but spreads towards the root.  Molars are well known for such.

A cusp may actually break off, but rarely will this result in damage to the pulp and is therefore not normally painful.

The use of a filling, inlay, or crown are the main treatment options.

  • Cracked tooth

A typical cracked tooth is where the fracturing of the tooth enamel extends from the chewing surface down towards the tooth root, but has not yet separated the tooth into multiple pieces.

If the crack has made its way to the pulp, root canal treatment will be necessary to protect from further damage but the tooth can ultimately be saved.

Should the crack be more extensive and go below the gumline, the tooth will likely need to be removed.

  • Split tooth

This type of cracking tends to be quite painful as it will expose the dentin and possibly the pulp too.

It might look like a hairline fracture, but the crack will run vertically down the tooth with distinct segments that can be separated.

Larger teeth such as molars with multiple roots are easier to repair than those split teeth with just 1 root.

A split tooth is often a result of a cracked tooth not being treated and the crack progressing.

The size and position of the crack will determine how much or if the tooth can be saved.

  • Vertical root fracture

Beginning in the root the crack can spread up towards the chewing surface and through to the outer enamel of the tooth.

They often show minimal signs and symptoms and may, therefore, go unnoticed for some time.

Such fractures are often only discovered when the surrounding bone or gum becomes infected.

Repairing cracked teeth

The severity of the crack will influence the approach taken by a dental professional in repairing the tooth.

For the smaller cracks, a filling might well be a suitable option.  However, consideration will be made for the overall strength of the tooth.

If the filling is possible but the tooth might be weaker still a crown or partial crown may well be considered.

Where the crack has made its way from or to the inner tooth structure, it is more common for root canal treatment to be required.

Root canal treatment removes the nerves and blood supply within the tooth and replaces it with a filling.  This retains the natural tooth, but crowns are often necessary afterwards due to the weakened state of the tooth and reduce risk of infection with bacteria.

Where treatment has not been sought or the crack is left untreated the chances of a successful restoration are reduced.

Dentists will do all they can to save natural teeth, but in the worse case scenario, extraction may well be necessary, particularly in the case of a vertical root fracture.

Broken teeth

If your tooth tooth psychically breaks this is most often when you will really feel the pain and be all to aware of the damage.

A large chunk or piece of tooth usually comes off.

The pain and sensitivity is felt because in the case of a broken tooth, the dental pulp, the very core of the tooth has been exposed.

The nerves and blood supply are coming in contact with with air, saliva and other substances in the mouth causing increased sensitivity.

Multiple before and after photos of repaired broken teeth

You might be a bit lucky if there is no pain.  However, no pain does not mean no problem.

If your tooth is broken and you are experiencing no pain, it can often be a sign that the damage to the tooth is so great or the decay that bad, the nerves and blood supply have already been destroyed.

In this instance, you will usually want to seek emergency or rapid dental care, even if that is temporary treatment until such time as a specialist can perform the necessary treatment.

A piece of my tooth broke off – shall I keep the piece of tooth?

Yes. Any information you can provide the dentist with can be very useful.

Dr Chhaya ChauhanIn-house dentist – GDC Number: 83940

Repairing broken teeth

The pain and sensitivity that will likely ensue with a broken tooth, so you will probably want to avoid eating as much as you can.  If you can or want to eat, soft foods are a must and where possible avoid using the broken tooth to bite down onto the food.

The exact treatment that will be used will depend on the break and if the pulp has been exposed.

Bonding and dental veneers are 2 options for the front teeth in particular that can restore the cosmetic experience.

As a break can influence the strength and rigidity of the teeth a dental crown is often a common requirement.

With the molars, those large teeth at the back of the mouth, they have something called cusps.  Making up the chewing surface of the teeth, they can break off, but the underlying tooth structure can remain in tact and it may not expose the dentin or pulp that sits beneath.

In this instance, a partial crown, also known as an inlay or onlay can be used.

Inlays are more comprehensive than a filling.  It is not normally made or placed instantly like a filling.  Made in a dental lab, the inlay is precision crafted to allow for restoration of the tooth, but not are extensive as a full traditional crown.

If decay is the root cause of the break in the tooth, root canal treatment might be a option for repair or it might be necessary to extract it.  However, broken teeth are well known for being more problematic as they are more fragile and are susceptible to further breaks when being removed.

The most common mistake people make when they have a broken tooth?

Often people mistake a broken tooth for dental decay. I often have patients who think they have chipped a back tooth, which is actually hard to do, and then they don’t do anything about it! The problem with this is they decay won’t heal itself and ends up getting worse to the point where root canal treatment or tooth removal is required.

Dr Gemma WheelerIn-house dentist – GDC Number: 259369

Replacing damaged teeth

When many of us think about damaged or broken teeth, we often conjure up an image in our mind of a smile that is radically different to that we have now.  Multiple gaps and a creepy smile is perhaps what comes to mind.

In the more extreme scenarios where removal of the natural tooth is necessary, or where the existing teeth require substantial repair, the result need not be as dramatic as you might think.

Dentistry has evolved and whilst dentists will do all they can to save teeth, the options available to restore the smile are great.

Dentures are the most common and affordable form of replacement teeth, with dental bridges and crowns being other options.

Whilst the NHS give some good options, opting for private treatment gives some of the most natural and best options that are not available to NHS patients.

Cracked tooth syndrome (CTS)

In many respects, it can be ideal for you and the dentist if a crack is obvious.  This way everyone knows what the problem and solution is.

However, symptoms can suggest a cracked or damaged tooth, but the crack in the tooth is not immediately apparent.

Cracked Tooth Syndrome (CTS) is a condition where the fractures is incomplete and the part of the tooth has not broken off.  The fractures are so small that they do not show on an x-ray and the. They can be below the gumline and often occur in molars.

The condition usually means you suffer pain when you bite and chew, but it will not happen all the time.  The sensitivity felt may only occur when specific foods are eaten or you bite in a certain way.

You may consult your dentist for treatment, but they have to find the cause of your pain.

CTS can be difficult to diagnose as highlighted by the Journal of Pharmacy and BioAllied Sciences.

It can be a painstaking process of elimination, going through different teeth, running tests to try and find the cracks.

A tool called an explorer is often used.  The sharp edge of this can catch on cracks and may exert a pain that you feel, which can can confirm or deny locations of the cracks requiring treatment.

The dentist may shine a fiber optic light on the teeth or stain it with a dye to help search for a crack.

If the location has been narrowed down, any fillings in the tooth may also be removed to enable better access and reaching the source of the problem.

How long symptoms last depends somewhat on how quickly a cracked tooth can be diagnosed. Even then, treatment may not always completely relieve the symptoms.

Getting dental treatment

No matter how much damage has been done to a tooth, if you know that the damage has been done or that something is not quite right, you should go and see a professional as soon as possible to have it checked.

The smallest of cracks can develop to become much bigger, more painful and expensive issues to resolve.

Where the damage is a chip and no pain is being experienced, it might not be quite as urgent as a cracked or broken tooth.  You should still ring for an appointment with your general dentist, but waiting 24-48 hours is usually fine.

Where there is obvious pain or damage to the tooth, you should make your dental office aware so that the severity can be assessed and you can be booked in for an assessment.

Most dental practices will have allowances within their daily schedules for emergency appointments.

Although most dental offices have office hours that tend to be between 8am and 6pm, it is possible to get treatment outside of this time.

The exact process may well depend on whether you are eligible for NHS dental treatment or not.

Even if you know your practice is closed, it is best to call.  Many will have an answerphone message that will give instruction on what you should do for out of hours treatment.  This answerphone message will likely give another number to call or tell you where to go for that medical attention.

If they do not, you can within the UK call 111 NHS Direct for further medical advice.

Alternatively you can use the find a dentist tool available on the NHS website.  It lists local practices and provides contact information and details on whether they accept emergency appointments.

If you are a patient of a private dental practice, they may well have their own guidance for out of hours contact.

To manage pain, you might want to take over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol to ease your discomfort and if there is bleeding, applying a clean gauze over the damaged tooth is advisable.

Once you see a dentist, be that with a routine or emergency appointment, it may well be necessary for you to be referred to an endodontist, who is specially trained diagnosing tooth pain and performing root canal treatment and other procedures relating to the interior of the tooth.

Cost of repairing chipped, cracked and broken teeth

For most of us, there is a cost associated with getting dental care in the UK.

Those costs will differ quite considerably whether you are eligible for NHS dental care or opt for private dental treatment.

Depending on the treatment that is required, will depend on the price you are expected to pay.

There are 3 cost bandings for NHS dental treatment.

Band 1 which is £21.60 (England) and £14 (Wales) at the time of writing will cover an examination, diagnosis (including x-rays) and advice on how to deal with the problem.

However, it is more likely that for most suffering with any tooth damage will fall within Band 2, which is £62.10 (England), £46 (Wales).

This includes fillings, root canal treatment and tooth removal.

The 3rd band comes in at £269.30 (England)/£199.10 (Wales) and is the maximum fee you pay for any NHS treatment.  This covers the cost of any crowns, inlays, bridges or lab work that might be needed, most notably with broken teeth.

The beauty of the NHS treatment is that Band 3 is the highest price you will pay. So, if you have been diagnosed with needing root canal treatment and a crown, whilst the costs fall under band 2 and 3, you will only have to pay band 3 and not both.

Unfortunately costing systems in Northern Ireland and Scotland vary and are closer to a fee-per-item, but information can be found on NHS Health Board websites.

If the pain or damage to the tooth is so severe that you need to seek out of hours/emergency treatment, then there is a separate fee which is £22.70 (England)/£14.30 (Wales).

There are a few circumstances where patients do not have to pay any fee at all and are entitled to completely free dental treatment.  A full list of qualifying criteria is available here  but those entitled to free treatment include those:

  • Aged under 18, or under 19 and in qualifying full-time education
  • Pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months
  • Staying in an NHS hospital and your treatment is carried out by the hospital dentist
  • An NHS hospital dental service outpatient – but you may have to pay for your dentures or bridges

You’re also entitled if you or your partner – including civil partner – receive, or you’re under the age of 20 and the dependant of someone receiving:

  • Income Support
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • Universal Credit and meet the criteria

Before any work is actually carried out, the dentist will usually explain what is necessary and you can decide whether you wish to go ahead with the NHS treatment or whether you want to be treated privately, as is the preference for some people.

If you do not make use of an NHS dentist and seek private dental treatment for fixing a chipped damaged or broken tooth, the costs will be very different, subject to the work required to resolve the issue.

Complications of a cracked tooth

Any professional dental treatment to fix cracked teeth will usually last for many years.

Although, because the tooth does not heal like a bone does, these treatments are not guaranteed to last a lifetime.  Complications will occur in the worst case scenarios.

The biggest risk and cause of complication is not getting a cracked tooth treated.

Failing to get it treated can lead to infection, which will in time spread to the bone and gums, resulting in pain, dental treatment time and costs more severe than having got the crack or original symptoms checked out earlier.

Typical symptoms of a dental infection include:

  • Dental abscess
  • Fever
  • Pain when chewing
  • Swollen gums
  • Sensitivity to heat and cold
  • Tender glands in the neck
  • Bad breath

Root canal tooth cracked

Root canal treatment can be a very effective method for saving and repairing damaged teeth.

Successful root canal treatment can avoid a tooth having to be extracted and replaced with a denture or bridge.

The repair can last many years causing no issues whatsoever.

However, for many reasons the treatment can fail very soon after initial treatment or in the years following.

If you have a root canal treated tooth that has cracked, don’t panic.  It is quite likely that it can be saved.

It might be that you had a dental crown fitted post treatment and it is just the crown that has cracked.  This can be replaced.

The crack could be affect the root of the tooth, but it can be possible, to re-do the root canal and save the tooth once again.

What you need to do is go and see a dentist and get it checked out, where a professional diagnosis can be given along with a suggested treatment plan.

Chipped baby teeth

If you have a baby, toddler or young child that has a chipped, broken or physically cracked tooth, you need to book them in to see the dentist.

The more information you know about the damage the better.  However, subject to the child’s age, it can be more difficult to understand what happened and how much pain they are in.

Just like an adult, even if the damage appears superficial, there could be more damage beneath the gumline or that you can’t see.

Baby teeth do eventually fall out, but the health of baby teeth can have an impact on the adult teeth that follow.

What differs is the treatment.

A chipped baby tooth is less likely to have any form of bonding completed, to make it look normal again.

A cracked tooth might get a small filling or it may be extracted.

A broken baby tooth will more than likely need to be extracted.

Avoiding chipped, cracked or broken teeth

To avoid all chance of doing damage to your teeth, you simply could not live life.

Avoiding hard boiled sweets and potentially dangerous physical contact sports are 2 options, but not ones we or most would recommend as all things considered the risks are relatively low.

Our teeth are on the whole very robust and it is more a case of considering preventative steps rather than avoiding things all together.

Most of these preventative things are fairly straight forward and ‘common sense’ advice.  For example, it makes sense not to use your teeth to open bottles or product packaging. Avoid actively biting down on food and sweets you know will be very hard, such as boiled sweets.  Do not grind your teeth or clench them.

If you get involved with contact sports such as rugby, boxing, wrestling wearing a mouthguard is a good step to take.

Even some other sports like hockey are known for resulting in quite serious injuries to the teeth as the puck or ball can hit players in the face.

Whilst off the shelf, ‘boil and bite’ mouthguards can help, the protection offered is minimal.  For those regularly partaking in such sports, custom fitted mouthguards available from your dentist are much more effective.

They are more expensive and is being used by children, will require regular replacement as the mouth changes, but can be a worthwhile investment.

Aside from this, there are some other steps you can take that will help keep your teeth strong and reduce the chances of the tooth fracturing.

  • Reduce the amount of sugar consumed be that fizzy drinks or snacks.
  • Drink water after eating snacks to wash away and dilute the sugars.
  • Chew sugar free gum.
  • Brush and floss the teeth regularly to stop decay forming which can weaken the teeth.
  • Do not rinse the mouth after brushing
  • Have regular dental checkups to look for potential damage and asses over oral health.

No matter how well you look after your teeth, by brushing properly, taking good care of them and eating the right food, accidents and life happens.  Most important here is dealing with what happens most appropriately.

Conclusion

Some damage to your teeth is more obvious than others.

Whether obvious or not, you should always get any of the symptoms or concerns you have checked out.

It is much better to get problems dealt with quicker, rather than them being left and developing into something more serious.

Chips to the teeth common, cracks and breakages happen frequently too.

We hope this article has given you more insight and understanding as to how and why such happens and the possible treatment options.

FAQ

Tooth broken at gum line can it be saved?

It is unlikely that a tooth can be saved, if it is broken at the gumline.

This is because the crown (the piece of tooth above the gumline) is missing and it is virtually impossible to rebuild the tooth as not enough structure remains.

In this instance, it is likely that the root of the tooth (the bit still in the gum) will need to be removed.

Once the root has been removed and the gum healed, a replacement tooth could be considered.  Depending on the tooth that was broken, a bridge or a partial denture are likely to be options.

You can even consider a dental implant,

However, just because it is unlikely does not mean it is impossible.  Every individual case is different and it might be possible in some instances to rebuilt the tooth, depending on how much has broken off.

Is a chipped tooth an emergency?

Dentists would not normally consider a chipped tooth an emergency.  Most chips in teeth are pain-free with no bleeding or trauma to the tooth and little or no pain.

It is advisable to see a dentist soon after chipping the tooth for a professional opinion and to make sure no other damage exists, as depending on how the tooth was chipped it may cause other damage that was or is not obvious to yourself.

How are chipped teeth fixed?

Click here to read the section of the article dedicated to repairing chipped teeth.

How to fix a chipped tooth at home?

There are solutions that exist to fix a chipped tooth at home, none of which we advise getting or trying.  They might be cheaper and do the job, but they are not necessarily permanent or reliable.  It is always best to see a professional for fixing such damage.

What to do if my baby, toddler or child chips or breaks a tooth?

For the most part the steps involved with dealing with a baby, toddler or child with a broken tooth is much the same as it is for you and I as adults.

However, where some adults tend not to worry and brush off damage until it causes any issue, it is very important that you get any child with tooth damage checked out.

Unless appropriate this need not be an emergency appointment, but the earliest available by your dental practice.

Checks will be made to the extent of any damage and considerations for treatment made.

Small chips might be filed down to make them smooth, a break may be shaped or filled or the tooth removed if it is a baby tooth.

Chipped tooth – what to do?

Get the tooth checked over by a dental professional.

This whole article goes into a lot of detail on what to do and the steps involved, but the information available here on seeing a dentist summarises what you need to know and do.

Fractured tooth symptoms?

Possible symptoms of a fractured tooth include:

  • Pain when biting or chewing
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods
  • No symptoms at all
  • The tongue or cheek becomes irritated by a rough or sharp edge

Your comments and opinions

If you should have any questions, comments or opinions you would like to add to this guide, please do so, by commenting below.

Should you have had a cracked tooth yourself, why not share some feedback for others to take advantage of.

References

Image Sources

Jon Love

About Jon Love

Jon is a leading voice on electric toothbrushes and has been quoted by mainstream media publications for his opinions and expertise.

Having handled & tested hundreds of products there really is very little he does not know about them.

Passionate about business and helping others, Jon has been involved in various online enterprises since the early 2000s.

After spending 12 years in consumer technology, it was in 2014 that he focused his attention on dental health, having experienced first-hand the challenge of choosing a new toothbrush.

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4 thoughts on “Tooth repair: how to fix a chipped, cracked or broken tooth”

  1. I appear to have chipped a molar. It’s not a complete fractured cusp – simply a piece of cusp chipped off completely within the enamel layer. There is no pain. My dentist recommended a crown but said it was completely my choice. There does not appear to be any other cracks. What would you suggest?

    Reply
    • Based on what you have said, it seems like a crown is not essential.

      To place a crown involves preparing the tooth and removing more enamel than it sounds like you have already lost.

      Once a tooth is chipped or damaged it is potentially more vulnerable to further damage. This is likely why the dentist has suggested a crown, to protect your tooth long term.

      It might be possible to have some cosmetic work done to the tooth with some bonding agents etc to build the tooth back up, if you are concerned by the look. For more severe damage, there are modern treatments like inlays, but generally you have to seek private treatment for this, and it must be appropriate.

      Given that the dentist has suggested it is your decision would imply that they are not that worried about your situation and if you are happy you can carry on without doing anything.

      It is always best seeking advice from a professional who has actually assessed your tooth, so I can’t really say one way or the other.

      Reply
  2. I have a front top broken tooth and the dentist gave me three options 10 Reconstruct the toothon the remains; 2)extract the tooth completely with roots and fix denture or 3) remove the part remaining above the roots and fix denture leaving the roots where they are. Could you please suggest to me what of the options do you advise I should go for. I have to give an answer by this evening if you can spare an answer. Much obliged
    Regards and thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Joseph.

      I am not sure this reply is in time for your decision, but none-the-less here are my comments.

      Your dentist may have given 3 options, but have they suggested which option they advise most?

      The best answer to this question is really from the dentist, as they have seen your tooth and have your dental records to be able to make a fair and reasonable professional opinion on the matter.

      Please do not consider this as medical advice, but I would have thought that if reconstruction is possible, the damage is not that severe that the tooth needs to be removed.

      I would be inclined to go with the reconstruction over a denture at this stage. This may look more natural and be a btter fit. It may be possible that should the reconstruction fail at a later date you can then have the tooth extracted and a denture fitted.

      Dentures are very good nowadays, but they can take some getting used to, so whilst you have the option of keeping (part of) your natural tooth I would go for this.

      Reply
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